ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his NFL Mock Draft 3.0 on Tuesday, projecting offensive tackle Evan Neal at No. 5 overall to the New York Giants and receiver Jameson Williams at No. 21 overall to the New England Patriots. Wednesday, Kiper provided insight on his latest draft projections, holding an hour-long media conference call.
Here are a few Alabama potential storylines that stemmed from the conversation.
Evan Neal’s chances of becoming the first pick
Neal’s draft stock took a bit of a hit following Jacksonville’s decision to place the franchise tag on fellow former Alabama lineman Cam Robinson, locking him into a one-year deal worth $16.6 million. That move has seen several analysts, including Kiper, project the Jaguars to take Michigan Edge rusher Aiden Hutchinson with the No. 1 overall pick.
Kiper didn’t mention Neal specifically in Wednesday’s conference call but did say that he is “90%” confident Jacksonville will take an edge rusher instead of a tackle with the top pick. Even if the Jaguars decide to pick a tackle, Neal isn’t necessarily a lock to be their selection. Kiper has projected N.C. State’s offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu above Neal in his latest two drafts, tabbing him at No. 1 overall on March 1 while currently slotting him at No. 3 to the Texans.
Neal did not participate in workouts during the NFL Scouting Combine, choosing instead to wait until Alabama’s Pro Day on March 30. A strong showing there could help him pick up some momentum heading into the NFL Draft on April 28.
The Crimson Tide hasn’t had a player taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft since Washington selected Harry Gilmer with the top pick in 1948.
Is Jameson Williams a first-round lock?
If not for an ACL injury during the national championship game on Jan 10, Williams would be in contention to be the first wide receiver off the board next month. Since the setback, the Biletnikoff Award finalist has seen his draft stock slip with some even wondering if he will fall out of the first round. Wednesday, Kiper quelled some of those concerns, stating that the sources he has spoken to are still predominantly high on the former Alabama receiver.
“You get your intel from the league on that, and the intel told me first round for Jameson Williams,” Kiper said. “Some still think second round because of the ACL. But my intel, and I didn’t talk to 32 teams, but the ones I did speak to said first round for Jameson Williams.”
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After transferring to Alabama from Ohio State last year, Williams led the Crimson Tide with 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns on 79 receptions. The speedy receiver was also a threat on special teams, averaging 35.2 yards per kick return, including two returns for touchdowns.
Earlier this month, Williams said the original prognosis for his injury was five to seven months but that he was hearing he was ahead of schedule.
Wednesday, Kiper said he considered projecting the receiver to the Green Bay Packers at No. 22 or No. 28 as well as the Buffalo Bills at No. 25 before deciding on No. 21 to the Patriots. If Williams does end up in New England, he will give former Alabama quarterback a much-needed deep-threat option.
“New England is going to be fortunate as will Green Bay, needing receivers,” Kiper said. “If you need them like they do, this is the year to get them.”
What about Alabama’s other injured receiver?
Williams isn’t the only former Alabama receiver whose stock was affected by a late-season setback. John Metchie III suffered an ACL injury of his own during the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4. Earlier this month, Metchie said his recovery is on schedule, stating that he should be ready to return to the field by June.
Last season, Metchie led Alabama with 96 receptions over 13 games, tallying 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. That came following a breakout sophomore campaign in 2020 where he recorded 55 receptions for 916 yards and six scores.
During the combine, Metchie said he didn’t get the sense that his injury is of too much concern to NFL teams. When asked about Metchie on Wednesday, Kiper said “I love the kid,” praising the receiver for his clutch catches and unselfishness at Alabama. That being said, the latest setback could push him back a little later on Day 2.
“Metchie, I think would have been a lock second-round pick, guaranteed second-round,” Kiper said. “Now with the injury, I don’t know if he drops to the third. He may, but he’s just a good football player, and he’s going to have a lot of good years in this league.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism